Neural basis of embodiment: distinct contributions of temporoparietal junction and extrastriate body area
Embodiment, the sense of being localized within one's physical body, is a fundamental aspect of the self. Recently, researchers have started to show that self and body processing require distinct brain mechanisms, suggesting two posterior brain regions as key loci: the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), which is involved in self processing and multisensory integration of body-related information; and the extrastriate body area (EBA), which responds selectively to human bodies and body parts. Here we used evoked potential mapping and a distributed linear inverse solution to show that activations in EBA and TPJ code differentially for embodiment and self location, because the location and timing of brain activation depended on whether mental imagery is performed with mentally embodied (EBA) or disembodied (TPJ) self location. In a second experiment, we showed that only EBA activation, related to embodied self location, but not TPJ activation, related to disembodied self location, was modified by the subjects' body position during task performance (supine or sitting). This suggests that embodied self location and actual body location share neural mechanisms. Collectively, these data show that distributed brain activity at the EBA and TPJ as well as their timing are crucial for the coding of the self as embodied and as spatially situated within the human body.